BEREA—One of the players that most Browns fans are anxious to see is Greg Little. He was taken in the second-round of the draft, despite not playing football all of 2010 after being declared ineligible by the NCAA.
“It’s been awhile since I played a game at full contact and full speed,” Little said. “I’m excited to be playing again.
“But, it’s not like I’ve been lying on the couch for two years.”
Little has made some spectacular plays in training camp, but has also had his share of dropped passes.
“I’ve had some good days and bad ones,” he said. “I’m trying to build on the day before and get more consistent.”
You can see the play-making ability in the 6-2, 220 pound rookie from North Carolina. He can go high and take a ball away from a defender and he can break a tackle and pick up big yardage after a catch. Little played running back, as well as receiver in college.
“Catching passes is like riding a bike,” he said. “You don’t forget. It’s just concentrating and proper technique.
“You hone in on what you do well,” Little said. “And you continue to work on the areas you need work on.”
Many national observers-- as well as Browns fans--felt the receiving corps was an area the Browns needed to address. Little would seem to be the likeliest upgrade as the Browns used a second-round pick to draft him.
“I’m improving every day and looking to improve each day,” he said. “I feel I’ve prepared myself well in practice and in camp and am ready.”
Little is also billed as a good down field blocker and he said Peyton Hillis added some incentive to help spring backs for long gains.
“Peyton has implemented some incentives for us blocking and I want to help him and other backs spring for long gains.”
Shurmur’s First: Pat Shurmur will be coaching his first NFL game as the head coach, albeit in the preseason against Green Bay. His demeanor is very laid back and even-keeled.
“I am very excited,” he said. “(The excitement) is down in there. As coaches and players, that is what we do. We compete and see how we do.”
Shurmur said this will be a good test to see where the Browns are as they play the Super Bowl champions.
“Really, though, I want to see how good our team is,” he said. “We have 90 players and 20 coaches, who have just been together for two weeks.”
Montario Anxious: RB Montario Hardesty is being held out of contact for precautionary reasons as he returns from a torn ACL from a year ago. Thus far, there have been no setbacks and he’s hoping to get the green light to get back to practice.
“I’m getting a lot of work in,” Hardesty said. “I’m running a lot and am working on change of direction and cutting. I feel like I’m coming along well.”
Phil’s Thrill: No. 1 draft choice Phil Taylor will line up for his first game Saturday. Taylor is listed as the starter at defensive tackle along with DL Ahytba Rubin.
“I am very excited to get out there and play,” he said. “Every day, I feel like I’m getting a little better.”
Taylor said he gets a test every day going against the Browns offensive line.
“We’re live on every play,” he said. “The toughest part is going against your own offensive line because they know what you’re doing.
“In college, sometimes you could get by just because you were big and strong,” he said. “(In the NFL), you need moves and technique.”
Shurmur said Taylor is coming along.
“Phil’s done a good job,” Shurmur said. “He’s getting used to the defense and the style of NFL football. He’s been a load against the run and has started to show some pass rushing ability.
Taylor said a lot of his family members are coming in from Maryland for the game.
For Starters: Shurmur said he will play the starters for the first quarter against Green Bay.
“Preseason games are important,” he said. “Typically, that’s about how we planned it. Whether it’s the ones, two’s or three’s, it’s important for the players to show what they can do to make the team.”
Peyton’s Play: RB Peyton Hillis is looking forward to live action for the first time.
“It’s good for our team,” Hillis said. “We’ve been waiting all off-season for a game.”
Hillis had a breakout season last year with 1177 yards and being named to the Madden cover during the off-season, but he said he’s kept everything in perspective.
“It’s been pretty much the same for me,” he said. “There’s been the lockout and the Madden cover, but I’ve still prepared the way I always have. I’m trying to keep everything the same for me.”
One negative last season was that Hillis fumbled eight times and he said he worked a lot on that in the off-season. He added a little incentive for kids back in Conway, Ark. to earn some extra money.
“I’ve always carried a ball around with me,” he said. “I told the kids if they knocked the ball out of my hands I would give them some money.”
He didn’t say if anyone collected.
Shurmur likes what he sees of his big back.
“He’s an impressive guy,” Shurmur said. “He has a physical presence and has size and the way he plays. He’s very detailed and is hard on himself. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He catches the ball and runs well.”
Buster vs. Little: Shurmur noted one of the good matchups in training camp has been rookie CB Buster Skrine going up against rookie WR Greg Little.
Despite being listed at 5-9, Skrine gives up five inches to Little. He took the ball away from Little on a play Thursday.
“He’s a scrappy guy,” Little said. “He’s made some pretty good plays out there.”
Skrine, taken in the fifth-round, has caught Shurmur’s eye.
“He’s a competitor,” he said. “He’s a scrappy, scrappy guy. That’s been a good matchup with he and Little.”
Shurmur said he watched Skrine a lot at Chattanooga.
“I’ve watched him play in college,” he said. “Initially, what you notice is he’s very, very competitive.”
Injury Update: DL Jabari Fletcher (knee), LB Chris Gocong (stinger), RB Montario Hardesty (knee)and WR Mohamed Massaquoi (foot) did not practice. OL Dominic Alford (back) was limited. Shurmur said that S Eric Hagg injured his knee in a red zone drill and was being evaluated. S Usama Young’s hamstring tightened up and he was limited.